Portland office-seeker slams campaign finance complaint
Portland mayoral candidate Ozzie González pushed back against a complaint that his campaign accepted donations above the limit approved by voters — saying candidates of color do not get the same level of press or fundraising as their white counterparts.
"The complaint filed against me is working against inclusion," González said at City Hall on Monday, Jan. 6. "If I am to become the next mayor of Portland, the wrong thing for me to do is to put additional limitations on my campaign."
Portland voters approved a $500 cap for individual donations to campaigns — and a $10,000 limit for political committee expenditures — in late 2018, following in the footsteps of a similar ballot measure approved for Multnomah County elections in 2016.
But in both cases, Multnomah County judge Eric Bloch found the limits unconstitutional, hewing to the legal doctrine that money is a form of free speech. Portland's limits were struck down in June, and the decision to uphold or overturn that decision now rests with the Oregon Supreme Court.
In the meantime, advocates contend that the rule is still in effect.
"If they wanted to, any one of them could file a lawsuit and ask for an injunction, and nobody's done it," attorney Dan Meek told the Tribune. "Adopting limits on contributions is a means of leveling the playing field and it definitely harms incumbents more than anyone else."
The local advocacy group that pushed the reforms, Honest Elections, filed complaints with the City Auditor's office on Dec. 19, highlighting donations to four candidates:
• González, an architect, is accused of accepting four contributions over the limit, including one $10,000 donation from Rick Stanley, for a total of $14,000.
• Incumbent Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is accused of accepting 15 contributions of cash and in-kind donations over the limit, for a total of roughly $40,000
• Jack Kerfoot, who is running for Commissioner Chloe Eudaly's seat, is accused of accepting four donations he made by transferring his own money to his campaign, for a total of $106,000.
• Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who is up for re-election, is accused of accepting 17 donations over the limit or made by corporations rather than individuals, for a total of about $9,000.
Wheeler's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but announced in November that he would set voluntary donation limits of $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for unions or organizations.
At City Hall, González pledged to follow the fundraising limits set by the city's Open & Accountable Elections program, which is a total of $380,000 raised for the primary and an additional $570,000 for the general election. He then challenged Mayor Wheeler to adopt the same voluntary limit.
"This race will not be won by the person with the most money," González said.
So far, the only mayoral candidate certified by the Open & Accountable Elections program, which provides a six-to-one match for every dollar donated, is Sarah Iannarone.
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